The Blackhawks had a good first period. Although defensemen Adam Boqvist and Calvin de Haan went to the dressing room and de Haan (right shoulder) would not return, the Blackhawks played their best hockey of the night in that first frame. While Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head, the Blackhawks held leads in every possession stat through the first 20 minutes.
- 19-14 Corsi
- 12-11 shots
- 5-4 high-danger chances
- 53.24 percent expected goal share at even strength
Those solid numbers indicate the Blackhawks could have played a much better game, perhaps even with the injury to de Haan.
But the Blackhawks have a problem sustaining momentum once they build it, and that didn’t change against the Golden Knights. Instead, Vegas dominated the Blackhawks to open the second period, and the Blackhawks were never in the contest again once they were down 1-0.
That has to change. The Blackhawks’ system relies on the players playing with confidence and making the right moves at the right times, and it’s hard to gain confidence once you’re down 1-0.
It’s time to trade for a defenseman
Speaking of de Haan, his injury leaves the Blackhawks in a deep, deep hole. Olli Maatta (illness) will likely return to help Chicago in two more road games, but de Haan has been a better defenseman this season than Maatta, and he’s somebody the Blackhawks can trust in more situations. De Haan was also getting his offense going more recently, and that’s a crushing blow to the aspect of the game the Blackhawks need to be better.
The Blackhawks will still have to play both Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert through the rest of their road trip, as Slater Koekkoek hasn’t been up to par. The Blackhawks need more on the back end, and if de Haan is on the long-term injured reserve (coach Jeremy Colliton saying the injury is “not good” is not hopeful) they will once again have access to salary cap space.
If they need to, they can feel free to trade a rostered defenseman as the new one will likely take their minutes anyway. But something needs to be done, as the Blackhawks’ past movements did not build a good enough blue line, especially with the loss of de Haan and with Duncan Keith (groin) already on IR.
Power play’s second unit does exist
It was a horrible game for Chicago’s power play. They allowed another shorthanded goal against, and the first unit of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Erik Gustafsson, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome allowed two shots against and had zero for. They had 50 percent Corsi and had expected goal shares barely above 25 percent.
But the second power-play unit, a rarely seen group of players, scored a goal. Dominik Kubalik added a goal with 27 seconds remaining in the game. And that group had better metrics than the first unit, and were not scored against, despite starting their shifts either on the fly or in the neutral zone. That’s likely boosted by the fact that the second unit actually had the better quarterback in Boqvist.
Still, there is enough talent on the team offensively to provide two power-play units, and maybe its time to see that second group, including Kirby Dach, Kubalik, Boqvist, Brandon Saad and Alex Nylander more often.